Thursday, 23 April 2009

Hunter/Blogger: Censorship

Rather than go out hunting in the evenings, I've spent much of the last week drunk. Earlier today, I poured the remainder of my wine - £1.99 for a 1.5 litre bottle of Sainsbury's cheapest - down the sink and I've spent the last hour of unusual sobriety thinking about art and hunting.

This has lead to me think about censorship and about what I don't write here. I've read a lot on air gun forums about how the hunting community needs to tidy up the face it presents to the world because the wider world is intolerant of hunting and, if we don't tidy up our image, then the axe of critical indignation will fall and hunters - as a group - will have their freedom (their already very limited freedom) restricted further.

And this seems to make some sense to me - on one level. On another level, however, I find it appalling and stifling and I want to refuse the demand to conform to an acceptable image - because I can't help but think that conforming to a 'good image' is a form of suicide for hunters: the 'good image' is only ever going to get more and more restrictive until the only good image of hunters is no hunters at all.

I suppose it occurs to me that another way to respond to this demand to appear acceptable is to try to highlight, instead, the fact of this demand and by doing so - hopefully, maybe to call it into question a little bit. One way - it occurs to me - I can do this myself is to make an effort to present, here, some of what I've elected to censor over the last few months of writing (and taking photographs). So that's the plan.

I may also do some more hunting. Who knows?


  1. HH,

    There's censorship, and then there is good taste. Now taste might be in the eye of the beholder, but if you warn them of what is to come, using their own language, then they can usually accept your version of the obvious.

    In the case of hunting, I now tend to bring attention to the fact that 97% of us eat meat. You eat meat right? You get it at the market right? You buy the healthy stuff right?

    What a coincidence! Me too!

    Except I go and shoot my own. When I am feeling particularly tasteful I might use harvest instead of kill, but I think that's a little disingenuous of me to say.

    You are cleaning game. Does that make you a lesser human being? Who skins out the cattle at the processing plant? Does he get skewered in the press?

    I am still learning how to deal with anti-hunters and anti-gun people. My job is to be an ambassador, educator, and occasionally head cracker.

    God, I love being an American!

    I mean I love you guys too, don't get me wrong! But you guys tend to be to well mannered and polite all the time. I wonder what y'all are like when you let loose?

    I've got to come and visit you fellows... I can smell an international incident brewing!

    The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.
    The Range Reviews: Tactical.
    Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit.

  2. I've had this argument several times with several different people. I don't believe we should try to hide where our meat comes from or sugarcoat the fact that the process is rather brutal at times. That's life.

    By the same token, there isn't any reason to give antis ammunition either. If you're posting pictures to illustrate a point you're trying to make, or to explain a hunting technique, that's one thing. If you're just posting blood and gore to shock, that's another.

    Whether we like it or not, image and perception matter. There are a lot of people who are apathetic hunting supporters, at least on this side of the pond. Given the right approach and information, they can be turned into firm hunting supporters. They can, however, also be sent the other way as well.

  3. Thank you Albert and Kristine,

    I agree, it's a fine line to tread but, for myself, I think I've been erring slightly too much on the side of a sanitising caution. I appreciate your comments very much - it's an important issue and I hope it stays a discussion - rather than being silenced by repressive legislation. I hope just to make a contribution to this discussion.

    (I've edited the text that accompanied the photos above because, on reflection, my original writing veered too over towards emphasising a shock value - and that doesn't seem right either.)

  4. I find this debate interesting because, as a shooting magazine editor, I'm constantly having to ask myself 'is this image suitable for publication in a magazine that's on sale in newsagents up and down the country?'

    As Kristine says, blood and gore used purely for shock value are an obvious no-no. I have photos of rabbits killed with a .17HMR which would be totally unsuitable - although the rabbits in question were killed as humanely as is possible.

    Another one I try to avoid is the 'grinning shooter with pile of dead things' photo. I can see why people take them, but viewed out of context they often don't communicate the right image.

    The other category I steer clear of is anything suggesting lack of respect for the quarry. Even if someone happens to be holding a dead pheasant, rabbit, etc while larking about, it sends the wrong message.

    Of course not every hunter is so attuned to all this, which is why I sometimes see photos posted on public forums that make me wince.

    I occasionally get the 'ammunition for the antis' argument thrown at me over something we've published in Sporting Shooter - usually by people involved in driven game shooting, who simply don't get it when I explain that what they do week in week out is all the ammunition the antis need.

  5. ...of course, the antis are well aware of the power of a 'shocking' image - just look at the anti-snaring campaigns for example. Most of those images prove nothing beyond the fact that animals look pretty unsavoury after they've been lying dead for a few days - but to the average member of the public they convey an impression of awful cruelty.